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”To Sir, with Love” by E. R. Braithwaite

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 736
  • Category: Education

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To Sir, with Love is an incredibly inspirational story. E. R. Braithwaite, the author of this memoir, captures beautifully the shame and hatred of prejudices and racism. The journey begins at the East End of London, during the 1940’s. Mr. Braithwaite teaches at Greenslade Secondary School, which is surrounded by poor neighborhoods crammed with social rebels. Rick Braithwaite is a young black man, born in South America, who just got out of the Air Force. Now in Britain, Braithwaite is looking for a career, mainly to pay for food, but things do not work out as planned. He comes to know the malady of prejudice very well, as he is turned down from job after job. Braithwaite describes feeling “caught like an insect in the tweezers grip of prejudice.” Teaching becomes the therapy to set him free. When Mr. Braithwaite took the job as a teacher, he did not expect his students to be barbaric savages. Braithwaite has a hard time as he counters the cynicism of his impressionable students and, now and then, that of his colleagues also. The difficulties he faces, in getting students to focus on aspirations in the future rather than the upcoming weekend are painfully true. The need for inventive and genuine approaches to these educational challenges is abundantly clear. Gradually, he wins over the minds of his students as he tries to wipe clean their minds of prejudices. With hard work and dedication, he turns this class of delinquents into a class of young men and women with class. The whole time, Mr. Braithwaite realizes that it is not his skin color that is holding him back, but his attitude.

He reflects that, “At first it was terrible, but gradually I’m learning what it means to live with dignity inside my black skin.” In the beginning, he describes that he wanted this job, “but it would be a job, not a labor of love.” Then, after spending time with the students, Mr. Braithwaite began “learning from them as well as teaching them.” The students did not respect adult authority. He realized that they might have problems in their personal lives, but when they entered the classroom, Mr. Braithwaite joined them on a journey to adulthood. The students asked many questions which allowed them to acquire the knowledge they deserved. From time to time, the questions touched upon the people of different races, and Mr. Braithwaite gave mature answers, and spoke to them as if they were adults. Braithwaite’s theory was to treat his students as if they were older than what were so that they would behave more responsibly. When as a teacher he espected them, the students in return, accepted him and honored him with the title of “Sir.” The issue of racism does not disappear, but it never dominates the book. Race plays a more significant role in Braithwaite’s relationships with other adults. He also has to deal with inappropriate comments from the staff. The adult clashes are ultimately concluded by him to be of no importance as long as the repercussions do not enter the classroom. It was the children and not the teachers who mattered. In this novel, various human characteristics are portrayed.

Throughout the story, the idea that humans are able to adapt and change their way of thinking seems to be demonstrated. Both the teacher, Braithewaite, as well as his students, go through many changes. These changes lead to a change in their ways of thinking about each other. The novel portrays the ability to adapt to the world around one’s self as a very important trait. I personally would recommend this book as a must-read to everybody. It’s a beautiful book about human nature and about the behavior of teenagers who are treading on the path of being extreme rebels. Then it tells the story of a person who first becomes a teacher just to sustain himself but then realizes that these teenagers, whom he is in charge of, need help. So he selflessly forgets everything and helps them become mature adults. He tolerates all the hardships that he goes through in the process. The book is about student-teacher relationship, about racism and how to tackle it without the situation becoming ugly. Basically, it’s one of those classics which any book lover or even someone who is not a bookworm would like to read. You just can’t miss it.

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